Summertime and the Driving is Easy – or is it At first glance, summer might seem like the safer season for driving. After all, you don’t have to contend with snow, ice, poor visibility and shortened daylight hours. But in actuality, summer is the most dangerous month for driving.

In fact, if you thought summer driving was easier, you’re not alone. In a recent survey conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS) showed that 83 percent of people believe winter is “the most dangerous season to be driving on rural roadways.” Only 8 percent said summer was the more dangerous driving period.

This common misconception, that winter is the most dangerous season to drive, could also be part of the problem – leaving drivers with a false sense of security that could lead to a more laissez faire attitude behind the wheel. As it turns out, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) car crashes peak during summer months, most especially in July and August, where nearly twice as many people die in car crashes than the rest of the months of the year combined.

Why is summer more dangerous?

You could just say it all boils down to more – more traffic, more heat, more distractions, more teens, more bikes, more hours in the day and more construction. Here’s a little more detail on all that more.

Summer vacations = increased travel traffic on unfamiliar roads
Fresh out of school and looking for fun, more teens hit the roads in the summer
Hot summer weather can do a number on your tires and your engine leading to blowouts and engine overheatsbr
High temps and jam packed traffic can lead to impatient drivers and increased road rage
Summer’s good weather often means a spike in road construction
More bicyclists and motorcycles on the road
Longer days means more hours of people on the road
What you can do to beat the dangers on the street

Chill-out: According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, aggressive driving is a factor in 56% of fatal crashes. Impatience is at the root of this aggressive driving which includes behaviors such as tailgating, speeding, swerving in and out of lanes, failure to use turn signals, illegal passing (such as on the shoulder), running red lights and disregarding other traffic safety devices. Read our tips on How to Avoid Getting Angry on the Road.

Eliminate distractions: This means laying down ground rules for passengers that keep them from distracting your attention from the road, as well as turning off cell phones, turning down your tunes, not letting animals move freely about the vehicle, and refraining from eating or grooming while driving. Our post on Saying “No” to Distracted Driving can give you some simple tips to make this road trip a safe one.

Teen education: Common negligent behavior includes not wearing a seatbelt, texting while driving, and breaking state laws regarding passenger restrictions for teens. Make sure your teen is well-acquainted with MN passenger restrictions and that you’ve brushed up on what you (and they) can do to keep your teen driver summer safe by reading our post Summer is the Most Dangerous Season for Teen Drivers.

Pump up your jam by pumping up your tires, checking fluids, and inspecting things like car batteries, lights, brakes, wiper blades and replenishing your car’s trunk safety kit before hitting the roadways this summer. Forgot that spring vehicle check? It’s never too late.

Plan ahead for safety by checking your trip route ahead of time with CERS new version of their interactive Web site. This Google Maps-based system where users can find information on highway fatalities nationwide, lets users enter an address and see all of the deadly crashes that have occurred in the region in the past eight years. Want to go on one of the Best Minnesota Summer Road trips? Check out our mini-guide.

Practice bike safety: If you’re a bicyclist it’s a good idea to get familiar with the best ways to keep yourself safe on packed summer roads. Whether you’re driving a car or pedaling your way in the hot summer sun, you can’t go wrong with these Rules of the Road. And remember, it pays to Create an Emergency Kit for your Bike, just in case.

With a little planning and vigilance, your summer road trip could be the stuff memories are made of.